II Kings 22

 

 

                                                     Accession of Josiah,

                                   the General Character of His Reign and

                                                 the Repair of the Temple

 

The writer begins his account of Josiah’s reign with the usual brief summary, giving his

age at his accession, the length of his reign, his mother’s name and birthplace (v. 1),

and the general character of his rule (v. 2). He then proceeds to mention some

circumstances connected with the repair of the temple, which Josiah had taken in

hand (vs. 3-7).

 

1  “Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign” So the writer of

Chronicles (II Chronicles 34:1) and Josephus (‘Ant. Jud.,’ 10:4. § 1). He must have

been born, therefore, when his father was no more than sixteen years of age, and

Amon must have married when he was only fifteen -  “and he reigned thirty and

one years in Jerusalem.” -  Probably from B.C. 640 to B.C. 609 — a most

important period of the world’s history, including, as it does:

 

  • the great Scythic invasion;
  • the fall of Assyria;
  • the formation of the Median empire; and the foundation of the

            Babylonian empire by Nabopolasar.

 

“And his mother’s name was Jedidahm the daughter of Adaiah of

Boscath.”

 

2  “And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked

in an the way of David his father,” - This is a stronger expression than any

which has been used of any previous king of Judah except Hezekiah, and indicates

a very high degree of approval. The son of Sirach says of Josiah, “The remembrance

of Josias is like the composition of the perfume that is made by the art of the

apothecary: it is sweet as honey in all mouths, and as music at a banquet of wine.

He behaved himself uprightly in the conversion of the people, and took away the

abominations of iniquity. He directed his heart unto the Lord, and in the time of

the ungodly he established the worship of God. All, except David and Ezekias

and Josias, were defective: for they forsook the Law of the Most High,

even the kings of Judah failed” (see the Apochropha Ecclesiasticus 49:1-4) –

“and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left; i.e. he never

deviated from the right path (Deuteronomy 17:18-20). 

 

3  And it came to pass in the eighteenth year of King Josiah” -

(compare II Chronicles 34:8). The writer of Kings, bent on abbreviating as

much as possible, omits the early reforms of Josiah, which are related in

(Ibid. vs. 3-7), with perhaps some anticipation of what happened

later. The young king gave marked indications of personal piety and

attachment to true religion as early as the eighth year of his reign, when he

was sixteen, and had just attained his majority.  Later, in his twelfth year, he

began the purging of the temple and of Jerusalem, at the same time probably

commencing the repairs spoken of here in v. 9. Jeremiah’s prophesying, begun in

the same or in the next year (Jeremiah 1:2), must have been a powerful assistance

to his reformation – “that the king sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, the son

of Meshullam, the scribe, to the house of the Lord, saying,” -  Shaphan

held the office, which Shebna had held in the later part of Hezekiah’s reign

(ch.18:18), an office of much importance and dignity. According to II Chronicles

34:8), there were associated with him on this occasion two other personages of

importance, viz. Maaseiah, the governor of the city (compare I Kings 22:26), and

Joah the son of Joahaz, the “recorder,” or “remembrancer.”

 

4   “Go up to Hilkiah the high priest” - Hilkiah is mentioned again in the

genealogy of Ezra (Ezra 7:1). He is there called “the son of Shallum”-  “that

he may sum the silver which is brought into the house of the Lord,” –

A collection must have been progressing for some time. As in the reign of Joash,

after the impieties and idolatry of Athaliah, it was found necessary to collect money

for the repair of the temple (ch.12:4-14), so now, after the wicked doings of

Manasseh and Amon, a renovation of the sacred building was required, and the

 money needed was being raised by a collection. Great care was taken in all such

cases that an exact account should be kept and rendered – “which the keepers

of the door — literally, of the threshold — have gathered of the people.”

The money had, apparently, been allowed to accumulate in a box or boxes

(see ch. 12:9), from the time when the collection was first authorized, probably six

years previously. The high priest was now required to count it, to take the sum of it,

and undertake the distribution.

 

5  “And let them deliver it into the hand of the doers of the work, that have

the oversight of the house of the Lord:” -  The “doers that have the oversight”

are not the actual workmen, but the superintendents or overseers of the workmen,

who hired them, looked after them, and paid them (equivalent to the modern day

contractor – CY – 2011) – “and let them give it to the doers of the work

which is in the house of the Lord — let the overseers, i.e., give out the money to

the actual workmen, the carpenters, etc., of the next verse — “to repair the

breaches of the house,” -  rather, the dilapidation of the house. It is not

implied that any violence had been used, such as is required to make a “breach.”

The “house” had simply been allowed to fall into disrepair.

 

6  “Unto carpenters, and builders, and masons, and to buy timber, and

hewn stone to repair the house” -  (“which the kings of Judah had destroyed” –

II Chronicles 34:11). The money had to be expended, partly in labor, partly in

materials.  The materials consisted of both wood and stone, since it was of these

that Solomon’s temple had been built (see I Kings 5:18; 6:7, 9-10,15, 36).

 

7  “Howbeit there was no reckoning made with them of the money that

was delivered into their hand, because they dealt faithfully” -  (compare

ch.12:15). The superintendents or overseers were persons of position, in

whom full confidence was placed. Their names are given in II Chronicles

34:12.  They were, all of them, Levites.

 

 

             The Discovery of the Book of the Law (vs. 8-14)

 

When Shaphan had transacted with Hilkiah the business entrusted to him by the king,

Hilkiah took the opportunity of sending word by him to the king with respect to a

discovery that he had recently made, during the investigations connected with the

repairs. He had found a book, which he called without any doubt or hesitation,

“the book of the Law”hr;wOTh" rp,se — and this book he put into the

hands of Shaphan, who “read it,” i.e. some of it, and found it of such importance

that he took it back with him to the palace, and read a portion to the king. Hereupon

the king “rent his clothes,” and required that special inquiry should be made of the

Lord concerning the words of the book,  and particularly concerning the threatenings

contained in it. The persons entrusted with this task thought it best to lay the matter

before Huldah, a prophetess, who lived in Jerusalem at the time, and proceeded

to confer with her at her residence.

 

8  And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found

the book of the Law in the house of the Lord.”  According to Josephus this

was a copy of the entire Pentateuch.  Whether or not the copy was the actual

original deposited in the ark of the covenant by Moses (Deuteronomy 31:26),

 is doubtful. As Egyptian manuscripts which are from three to four thousand years

old still exist in good condition, there can be no reason why a manuscript of

Moses’ time should not have been found and have been legible in Josiah’s. But,

if not the actual handwriting of Moses, it was probably its lineal descendant —

the copy made for the temple service, and kept ordinarily “in the side of the ark”

which may well have been lost in the time of Manasseh or Amon, and which was

now happily “found.”  And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read

it.”  We need not suppose that Shaphan read the whole. But he read enough

to show him how important the work was, and how necessary it was to make it

known to the king.

 

9   “And Shaphan the scribe came to the king, and brought the king word

again, and said, Thy servants have gathered the money that was in the house

and have delivered it into the hand of them that do the work, that have the

oversight of the house of the Lord;” -  i.e. “We have carried out the king’s

orders exactly, in every particular.”

 

10  And Shaphan the scribe showed the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath

delivered me a book.”  Shaphan does not venture to characterize the book, as

Hilkiah has done. He is not officially learned in the Law. And he has only read a few

passages of it. To him, therefore, it is only “a book,” the authorship and value of

which he leaves it to others to determine. “And Shaphan read it before the king.”

 It is most natural to understand here, as in v. 8, that Shaphan read portions of the

book.  Where the author intends to say that the whole book was read, he expresses

himself differently (ch. 23. 2, “The king read in their ears all the words of the

book of the covenant”).

 

11  And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of

the Law, that he rent his clothes.” To Josiah the book was evidently, as to

Hilkiah, in some sort a discovery. It was not, however, a wholly new thing; rather,

he accepted it as the recovery of a thing that was known to have been lost, and was

now happily found. And in accepting it he regarded it as authoritative. It was not

 to him “a book of Law”  but “the book of the Law.” We can well imagine that,

although the book may have been lost early in Manasseh’s reign, yet echoes of it

had lingered on:

 

  • in the liturgies of the Jehovistic worship;
  • in the teachings of the prophets;
  • in the traditional teaching of religious families; so that the pious

            ear recognized its phrases as familiar.

 

It is also probable that there were external tokens about the book indicative

of its character, which caused its ready acceptance.

 

12  And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of

Shaphan” - Ahikam the son of Shaphan is almost certainly Jeremiah’s protector

at the court of Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 26:24), the father of the Godaliah who was made

governor of Judaea on Nebuchadnezzar’s final conquest (Ibid. 39:14; 40:7).

Shaphan;’ his father, is no doubt Shaphan the scribe.”“and Achbor the

son of Michaiah” - The parallel passage of  II Chronicles 34:20 has Abdon the

 son of Micah,” which is probably a corrupt reading. Achbor was the father of

El-nathan, one of the “princes of Judah (Jeremiah 36:12) in Jehoiakim’s reign.

and Shaphan the scribe, and Asa-hiah a servant of the king’s — or Asaiah,

in the Chronicles, “saying,”

 

13  Go ye, inquire of the Lord for me” - Inquiry of the Lord, which from the

time of Moses to that of David was ordinarily “by Urim and Thummim,” was

after David’s time always made by the consultation of a prophet (I Kings 22:5-8;

ch. 3:11; 8:8; Jeremiah 21:2; 37:7; Ezekiel 14:7; 20:1). The officers, therefore,

understood the king to mean that they were to seek out a prophet (v. 14), and so

make the inquiry – “and for the people, and for all Judah” - the threats read in

the king’s ears were probably those of Deuteronomy 28:15-68 or Leviticus 26:

16-39, which extended to the whole people – “concerning the words of this

book that is found:” -  whether they are words that are to have an immediate

fulfillment, whether the measure of sin is already full, or whether there is yet hope

of grace?” (compare Huldah’s answer in vs. 16-20, which shows what she

understood the king’s inquiry to be) – “for great is the wrath of the Lord

that is kindled against us” - Josiah recognized what Judah had done, and

was still doing, exactly those things against which the threatenings of the

Law were directed — had forsaken Jehovah and gone after other gods, and

made to themselves high places, and set up images, and done after the

customs of the nations whom the Lord had cast out before them. He could

not, therefore, doubt but that the wrath of the Lord “was kindled;” but

would it blaze forth at once? – “because our fathers have not hearkened

unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is

written concerning us.”  Josiah assumes that their fathers have had the

book, and might have known its words, either because he conceives that it

had not been very long lost, or because he regards them as having

possessed other copies.

 

14  So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahi-ham, and Achbor, and

Shaphan, and Asa-hiah, went unto Huldah the prophetess, the wife of

Shallum the son of Tikvah, The principal prophets at or very near the

time were Jeremiah, whose mission had commenced in Josiah’s thirteenth

year (Jeremiah 1:2) and Zephaniah, the son of Cushi, whose prophecy

appears by internal evidence to have belonged to the earliest part of

Josiah’s reign. It might have been expected that the matter would have been

laid before one of these two persons. Possibly, however, neither of them was

at Jerusalem. Jeremiah’s early home was Anathoth, and Zephaniah may have

finished his course before Josiah’s eighteenth year. Huldah may thus have

been the only possessor of the prophetic gift who was accessible – “the son

of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe; literally, keeper of the garments –

In Chronicles the name of the keeper is given as “Hasrah.” (now she

dwelt at Jerusalem in the college”)  — rather, in the lower city (compare

Zephaniah 1:10 and Nehemiah 11:9; literally, in each place, “the second city “) —

and they communed with her.” -  literally, spoke with her.

 

 

                        The Prophecy of Huldah (vs. 15-20)

 

The word of the Lord comes to Huldah with the arrival of the messengers, or

perhaps previous to it, and she is at once ready with her reply. It divides itself into

two parts. In vs. 15-17 the inquiry made is answered — answered affirmatively,

“Yes, the fiat is gone forth; it is too late to avert the sentence; the anger of the Lord

is kindled, and shall not be quenched.” After this, in vs. 18-20, a special

message is sent to the king, granting him an arrest of judgment, on account

of his self-humiliation and abasement. “Because his heart was tender, and he

had humbled himself before Jehovah, the evil should not happen in his day.”

 

15  And she said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel.”  Huldah

is the only example of a prophetess in Israel, who seems to rank on the same footing

with the prophets. Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Deborah (Judges 4:4), Isaiah s wife

(Isaiah 8:2-3), and Anna (Luke 2:36) are called “prophetesses,” but in a secondary

sense, as holy women, having a certain gift of song or prediction from God. Huldah

has the full prophetic afflatus, and delivers God’s oracles, just as Isaiah and

Jeremiah do. The case is a remarkable exception to the general rule that women

should “keep silence in the Churches.” (I Timothy 2:11) -  “Tell the man that

sent you to me.”  The contrast between this unceremonious phrase and that used in

v. 18 is best explained by Thenius, who says, “In the first part Huldah has only the

subject-matter in mind, while in v. 18, in the quieter flow of her words, she takes

notice of the state of mind of the particular person who sent to make the inquiry.”

 

16  Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place”

 Jerusalem — “and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the

book which the King of Judah hath read.”  In the parallel passage of

II Chronicles 34:24, the expression used is stronger - “Behold, I will bring evil

 upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the curses that

are written in the book which they have read before the King of Judah.”

The passage which most strongly affected Josiah was probably that, already

mentioned, in Deuteronomy 28., the major portion of which is a series of curses.

 

17  Because they have forsaken me” -  This was the gist of their

offence, the thing that was unpardonable. Against this were all the chief

warnings in the Law (Deuteronomy 12:19; 29:25-28; 31:16-17; 32:15) and the

prophets (Judges 10:13; I Samuel 8:8; 12:9; I Kings 9:9; 11:33; 18:18; Isaiah

1:4; 65:11; Jeremiah 1:16; 2:13, etc.). It was not merely that they broke the

commandments, but they turned from God altogether, and “cast Him behind

their back.” - and have burned incense unto other gods” - (ch.23. 5; and

see also Jeremiah 1:18; 7:9; 11:13; 44:19) -  that they might provoke me

to anger with all the works of their hands;” -  i.e. “with the idols that they

have made for themselves” (I Kings 16:7) – “therefore my wrath shall be

kindled against this place and shall not be quenched.”   Here lies the

whole point of the answer. God’s threatenings against nations are for the most

part conditional, and may be escaped, or at least their fulfillment may be

deferred indefinitely, by repentance, (What might America be if she turned

back to God?  CY – 2011) as we learn from the example of Nineveh

(Jonah 3:1-10).  But if a nation persists long in evil-doing, there comes

 a time when the sentence can be no longer averted. A real repentance has

become impossible, and a mock one does but provoke God the more. For such a

state of things there is “no remedy” (II Chronicles 36:16), and this was the state of

things reached by the Jews. God’s anger against them could not be quenched.

 

18  But to the King of Judah which sent you to inquire of the Lord, thus

shall ye say to him, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, As touching the

words which thou hast heard;”-  the words that were read to thee by Shaphan

(v. 10) — the awful threats which caused thee to rend thy clothes and to make

inquiry of me.

 

19  Because thine heart was tender and thou hast humbled thyself

before the Lord” -  Rending the garments (v. 11) was an outward act of

humiliation. Josiah had accompanied it by inward repentance and self-abasement.

He had even been moved to tears (see the last part of this verse) –

when thou heardest what I spake against this place,” – The book was,

therefore, a record of what God had really spoken, - “and against the

inhabitants thereof that they should become a desolation and a curse;” -  

This is not a direct quotation from the Law, but a summary, in pregnant language,

of the general effect of such passages as Leviticus 26:31-35 and Deuteronomy 28:

15-20. The language is like that of Jeremiah 26:6; 41:18; 44:22 – “and hast rent

thy clothes (see v. 11), and wept before me;” - This had not been previously

stated, but might have been gathered from Josiah’s evident sincerity, and from the

ordinary habits of Orientals (ch. 8:11; 13:14; 20:3) -  “I also have heard

thee, saith the Lord.”  The general sense of vs. 18 and19, is, Because thou

 hast heard me and taken heed to my threats, I also have heard thee, and

 will delay their fulfillment.”

 

20  Behold therefore, I will gather thee unto thy fathers, and thou shalt

be gathered into thy grave in peace;” -  There is a seeming contradiction

between these words and the fact of Josiah’s violent death in battle against

Pharaoh-Nechoh (ch. 23:29). But the contradiction is not a real one. Huldah was

commissioned to assure Josiah that, though the destruction of his kingdom and the

desolation of Judaea and Jerusalem, threatened in the Law, were at hand, yet they

would not come in his day.  He would not see the evil time. Before it came he would

be “gathered to his fathers” i.e., in Jerusalem, as his predecessors had been (Ibid.

v. 30), and not hurried off into captivity, to die in a foreign land, or given

the burial of an ass, drawn and east forth before the gates of Jerusalem

(Jeremiah 22:19). The promise given him was fulfilled. He died in battle; but he was

buried in peace (II Chronicles 35:24-25); and the fated enemy who was to destroy

Jerusalem, and carry the Jewish nation into captivity, did not make any attack upon

the land until three years later, when he was departed to his rest, and the throne was

occupied by Jehoiakim (ch. 24:1) – “and thine eyes shall not see all the evil

which I will bring upon this place.” - e.g. the three sieges of Nebuchadnezzar, the

destruction of the temple and city by Nebuzaradan (ch. 25:9-10), the deportation

of the bulk of the inhabitants  (Ibid. v.11), and the calamities which happened to

the remnant left (Ibid. vs. 22-26). Josiah did not witness any of this. He was “taken

 away from the evil to come.” “And they brought the king word again.” -  i.e.

Hilkiah, Shaphan, and their companions (v. 14) reported to Josiah the message which

Huldah had sent by them.

 

 

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